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Stress Awareness Month

Hey guys! April is stress awareness month.
Stress is something we all cope with, some of us cope more effectively than others, and some us us have more manageable amounts of stress than others.
So, lets check in!
On a scale of 1-5 (1 being not stressed and 5 being losing it stressed) how stressed are you?? What’s going on?
And on a scale of 1-5 (1 being coping really badly, and 5 being coping super well) how well are you coping?? What are you doing?

I’ll go first.
On a scale of 1-5, I am teetering between a 4 and a 5. I have a lot of days that feel unmanageable.
My stress levels make sense to me in the context of my life right now. I just moved a few months ago (still not unpacked), I am full time at school (almost done for the summer!!), working 2 part time jobs, and of course, motherhood- which doesn’t stress me out itself, it’s feeling like I am missing out on my child’s life that is stressful. But, then I have amazing days, like yesterday, I took a mental health day and stayed home from school after staying up until 4 am doing homework. Why? Because I needed to. And I didn’t feel bad.
How well am I coping? I would say between a 2 & 3. More days I’m a 2. I’m not falling back into all my old coping skills, but I’m not on top of myself and using coping skills or self care the way I know I should. But, then I have better days and remember it’s not the worst thing I’ve lived through and it’s not forever!

So, after all that, how about you guys?? This is your chance to check in with yourself and let a little steam out if you’re feeling stressed!
Also, I found this really cool site. So, if you are feeling really stressed and are having a hard time, check this out.


Mental Health video by young adults!

Guys, check out this awesome video!

“From award-winning documentary filmmaker Arthur Cauty, comes Faces of Mental Health, a short film which challenges stigma and encourages open conversation around mental illness and suicide in young people.

Students in Bristol were offered a space to open up and share their thoughts and personal experiences of mental illness and suicide, with a view to encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds across the country and around the World to step forward and speak out.”

It’s on vimeo, and definitely worth a watch and a share!!

Check out the video here on vimeo

"Busy" – Overwhelming? or Productive?

First let me say, wow what a leap since last time I’ve released an update. Lot’s has gone on, holidays have passed, school and work has continued, as has life. One thing that I’v been saying for the past few months especially has been “I’m so busy”, and in that time it’s meant one of two things at multiple points. The first being “I’m so busy, it’s overwhelming. I’m so stressed out, I can’t take this anymore!”. And the second being “I’m so busy, I am knocking sh*t out! I feel so productive!”. We’ve all felt both, we know how stressful and rewarding being “busy” can be, sometimes both feelings at the same time even. But if we look a little closer, that “busy” follows us around, manifests in our emotions. Allow me to give an example, if I’m really busy and everything’s a mess, I’m going to be drained I’m going to be very irritable and quick to snap, I might be unproductive in my off-hours. Where as if I’m really busy and I’m able to knock everything out with the might of Zeus, I’m more likely to be more productive in my other activities, I might feel relieved, or fulfilled, my emotions are more likely to feel good.
No one wants to feel bad, just like no one wants to be drowning in assignments, but here’s a little something I realized over the past few months, especially as I made the transition into Overwhelming, to Productive:

Your productivity level has EVERYTHING to do with your mental health

If you don’t force yourself to get your sh*t done and it doesn’t bite you in the ass on the way home, a beast will awaken inside of you and rock, your, sh*t, HARD! I have ADD/ADHD, plus I’m an 18 year old guy, I’m not always ready to sit down and focus on nothing but what’s in front of me, but that’s why I try to think ahead and do whatever I can in the moment to help myself prepare for whatever my next task is. If you haven’t picked up on it, these are all umbrella effects, as soon as you focus and work on better one thing, other things typically follow. So if you’re struggling with your mental health, instead of focusing solely on it maybe it’s time to give some of the other aspects in your life some attention. Chances are they can probably help steer the whole ship around.

Plans for the Fall

August is almost over… HOW?!

summer

It’s almost time to kiss Summer goodbye, and say hello to wonderful, amazing Fall!
I love the Summer, but I love the Fall so much.
Still, even though I love the Fall, and I’m no longer in High School, the end of Summer gives me a knot in my stomach… I get so nervous and anxious, no doubt because school was so anxiety provoking for me as a child and teenager, and Fall often meant depression, anxiety, hospitals… a lot of pain.
With time, my love for Fall is beginning to come back into the forefront when I realize Summer is nearly over- but I still cannot escape the dull lull of anxiety that sits within my and grows bigger as leaves begin to change and nights become long.
It’s also kind of sad!

fall

So, how do you guys feel? Are you happy/sad/nervous/etc? What does Fall mean to you and what are your plans this Fall?
If you struggle with this time of year, what specifically do you struggle with? What makes it better?

We are here for you all during this seasonal transition and transition back to school!

What’s your dream job?

What is your dream job? Remember in elementary school when someone asked what you wanted to be and nothing held you back? Lawyer, astronaut, president, doctor, princess, firefighter; anything seemed possible at that time in our lives.
All throughout middle school and the beginning of high school, I used to dream about being a pediatric oncologist. Then, I slowly but surely stopped believing in myself. I convinced myself that that was not possible. I told myself I wasn’t smart enough, didn’t have enough time or money for school, wasn’t good at school, etc.
So, what is you REAL dream job? Is it still your goal? If not, why?
What’s holding you back from reaching your dreams?

Balancing work and school

Does anybody go to school AND work? Full time or part time for both? I am always amazed at how people can balance both. I really want to go back to school this semster- but with a new part time job I wonder if I could make it work? How do those of you who do this make it work? What are three tips for somebody struggling through this or wanting to begin both?

Letting go of the past and looking forward to the future

It was another hard week. It moved slowly yet quickly, and I struggled to catch up with myself almost every step of the way.
I met with my psychiatrist on Tuesday. We talked about starting medication again. It was a continuance of an ongoing conversation; one I will probably never stop having with my providers.
When I got pregnant I was taking a handful of different medications. Each did something different, and supposedly they held hands and worked together to safely guide me through my days. I didn’t really know how they made me feel. It was hard to tell if they helped or not, and which ones worked: or if only one worked and the rest simply hid behind one another. When I decided to keep Willow it was clear that I had to come off of all my medications.
So, for the first time in nearly ten years I was raw. I had had periods of not being medicated in the past, but these were short-lived and unsupervised.
Being pregnant and un-medicated was Hell. Not just for me, but for everyone around me. When I reached a peak of suffering, I ‘gave in’. I know, really, I was only doing what was best for me and Willow; the stress I was under was worse than what any medication could have probably done to her. The relief I felt from only a little bit of Zoloft was almost miraculous. For the first time in almost 7 months, I finally began to enjoy my pregnancy.
After giving birth, I was on a cloud; I was incredible, strong, and resilient, I was a powerful woman, and needed nothing. I was in awe of my perfect, precious baby. Seeing her in person made her seem so much more fragile. How could I take medication while breastfeeding, not knowing the potential risk? Besides, I felt amazing. So once again, I stopped taking my medication because I thought it was what was best for my daughter. Almost nine months later, I am still not taking any medication.
But I wonder sometimes. Is this really the right thing? I know I could feel better than I do, that taking a small dose of something would probably lift me up a little, relieve me of some of my anxiety; of the obsessive thoughts and worrying I have about Willow. But what would it do to her? Her brain is still developing-what would messing with her serotonin levels do to her? Once I start down that road of thoughts- I have to shut myself down. Instantly, I begin to worry, to panic. I get a headache and my eyes feel heavy. The unknown is too much for me. Maybe the stress I feel every day is worse for Willow than an antidepressant creeping into my breastmilk. Maybe it’s fine. But what about the vast grey area of the unknown? The area where I’m falling and falling, and reaching for something to grab hold of- but can never quite grasp? That space is too frightening for me. As scary as life is sometimes for me right now, that area is much more terrifying. So my doctor and I decided that right now I’m ok without medication, I’m not as good as I can be, but I’m ok. I’m in a place where having control over whether or not I take the medication is ok. And that feels good to know. Still, some days I’m unsure.
Am I being the best mom I can be? Am I damaging my amazing daughter? How much of my anxiety is she picking up on, and what is it doing to her?

Yesterday, I cried in front of a stranger. I didn’t mean to; The tears had been building for a few minutes- but I kept catching them. Snatching them and stuffing them down as quickly as I could. But as I sat in front of a guidance counselor at NCC, talking about school, and time, and energy; things I don’t currently have enough of; I could do little to hold back my intense sadness. I cried for a moment, then moved on; embarrassed of how crazy and out of control I must have looked to her. I knew she was probably judging me. Thinking about what a poor, uneducated, helpless young mother I must be. My poor child.

As I sat in the cold waiting for my bus, with Willow sleeping on my chest, my sadness grew. I thought of my life. The life I had before my pregnancy, and the life I was supposed to live; or at least the one I expected to live. Not the part of succumbing to my mental illness, but the fantasy and hope I had, that one day, I would get better. I imagined going to school, having some fun, making money. Building myself up so that one day, I would be able to grow up and have a family. Then I thought about how none of that was possible anymore, at least not how I had wished it would be.

I couldn’t sit in a dorm room with my peers and do homework, and smoke weed, and go to class; couldn’t save up for silly vacations or go on road trips; I had to rush back “home” to make my 6 o’clock curfew. I had to give my daughter a bath and put her to bed; take community college courses one by one, while working, and raising Willow. I have to throw aside my selfish wants and needs and drudge forward for the well-being of my child.

In that moment, I regretted becoming a mother. Not because I hate it, or because I don’t love Willow with every force within me; but because I wasn’t ready for motherhood. And I had to sit with the sadness of knowing I had committed to a life-long task I wasn’t prepared to take on. Knowing that I can’t turn back, or press pause, or share the weight of Willows life with anyone but myself. And again, I cried. In front of many strangers. Except this time I couldn’t wonder what they must have been thinking because I was too full of sorrow.

When I got on the bus I called my brother. He and I went through Hell and back with one another. The Hell I’m referring to is our childhood. But he had a separate burden to bear. One that I had the privilege of ignoring. That burden was watching me self-destruct. Nonetheless, he never once left my side; even though I accused him of doing so many times, even though I tried to push him away and lock him out, and even though at many times, I was a horrible sister.
He made me feel better. Not just because he spoke in an Australian accent and made fun of Trump. He and I are proof that even the most traumatic and damaging childhoods do not have to ruin a person. That despite prolonged suffering, a hurt child can still grow into an intelligent and kind adult.
And that reminded me of another thing, although I’m “not where I (want) to be, (at least) I’m not where I used to be” (Joyce Meyer). In the past years, I have grown tremendously. I remember in my adolescence, one of my best friends told me, in a very serious but loving way, that she felt certain one day I would kill myself. That was not the last time somebody told me they were prepared to mourn my death. And I knew, too, that one day I would die, and I felt certain it would be by suicide.
That girl is no longer me, I know she still lives deeply inside, sad, and scared, but she no longer greets me in the mirror. I have made progress in my life I would have never imagined possible, and come to a place I dreamed of several years ago. So while I know where I want to go, and know there is a long way to go until I get there, I find peace in the knowledge that I can look back and see the tremendous mountain I have managed to make it up. I know that it won’t be long before I can look down again, and bask at the progress I made. That will make me a better woman, and a better mother. And although my life won’t ever be perfect, it can be good, and I won’t stop until it is.

Willow Bear thanks you for reading this week!

How Academic Planners Saved My Life

Back to school seems to be the hot topic right now because everyone is finally settling in for the beginning of the school year.
When I was in high school, we were given planners to write down homework, but I used it for so much more. In college, we had them too, but I do know not all schools offer them for free.
If your school does not give out academic planners, I recommend investing in one. I am a person who needs to write everything down to function, so having the planner kept me on track.
Teachers are often posting assignments online and sometimes it can be a little chaotic if we don’t have access to the internet or if the teacher changes the due date for the project.

I loved having a planner too because I could set small goals each day to accomplish a certain amount of the work that needed to get done over the course of a month. Also, it was a great reminder if there is a club going on or an event planned far in advance…it can be marked up.

What are some other tools you are using to help you stay on track?

How to cope with a long commute?

Hey, everyone! I’ve just started a new job, and I’m facing an hour and a half commute each way, in intense traffic. I’ve been experimenting for the last couple weeks on ways to keep me calm and happy, while still alert enough to drive well. I thought I’d be able to use the time to call family and friends, but it’s hard to concentrate on any meaningful conversations. Plus my energy is totally zapped by the time I get home at night. Snacking on healthy stuff helps a little, and I like listening to NPR (although it can get a kind of depressing in the mornings), but it’s hard to focus on anything like a conversation or a podcast.

Does anyone have any advice on things people can do to make long commutes more healthy and pleasurable?